The Hudson Valley: A break from the Big Apple - Americas - Travel - The Independent

The Hudson Valley: A break from the Big Apple

New York State's Hudson Valley boasts one of the finest views in the Union, says David Usborne

I used to think that was true. But recently, I have been paying more attention to the landscapes on my doorstep. That has meant exploring north from the concrete and cement of Manhattan to all the rest of the vast Empire State. I have gone to Niagara Falls - an hour's flight away, but still within New York State's borders - and to the Adirondacks, which contain more wilderness areas than Yellowstone.

Today, I am barely two hours drive from the city and standing on a bluff on the eastern edge of the Catskill Mountains at 3,000 feet. On a fine day, you can see five different states from here - New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Jersey. In the foreground is the Hudson river, a thin sliver of light stretching parallel to the march of the Catskills. Rising further to the east are the Berkshires in Massachusetts. This spot owes its fame to a hotel built in 1824 with grand verandas and cavernous ballrooms. Long since gone, the Catskill Mountain House was a favourite retreat of Manhattan's elite.

Your first glimpse of the Hudson Valley, however, won't be from here but through the wide window of a train. From Pennsylvania Station board an Amtrak express heading upriver towards Albany (the state capital) and beyond to points that include Buffalo, Montreal and Toronto. Find out which end of the train is which and, if you are facing forward, sit on the left of the train. Gaze out the window as the train hugs the Hudson River for almost all your journey. As the Catskills first come into view about an hour out of Manhattan, you will know that you're on one of the most scenic train rides anywhere in the world.

Two hours out of Manhattan is the small city of Hudson, sitting on the east bank of the river from which it borrowed its name. The town, founded by Quakers in 1783 as a whaling and merchant seaport (even though it lies 100 miles upstream), makes for a perfect jumping-off spot to explore the region, the Catskills and the Berkshires and all the rolling farmland in between that could almost be England but for the russet-red painted barns and slender grain silos that tell you incontrovertibly that you are in America. In Columbia County alone, where Hudson is the county seat, you can explore the picturesque small towns of Chatham - try the cheeses made by the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company and stop by its Shaker Museum - as well as nearby Kinderhook, Ghent and Austerlitz. Or head south down Route 9G stopping at Olana, the country estate of the 19th Century landscape painter Frederick Church, and Bard College, a small university, with its stunning new arts centre built by the acclaimed architect Frank Gehry.

You could do much worse than to simply linger in Hudson. This was the first city to be chartered in America after the Revolution. Its main drag alone, Warren Street, is a living encyclopedia of American urban architecture. Emigrés from New York City and beyond have discovered its charms and set about renovating properties that were neglected during a period of depression in the seventies and eighties. Credit for this revival goes, in part, to the antique dealers who adopted Hudson a decade ago. Specialty shops, galleries and restaurants have also popped up. Need a gift? Stop by Marx Home, Lili and Loo, The Knotty Woodpecker or Naked. Eating? Drinking? Sample the Red Dot, Swoon and Ca Mea.

But before you head back to the big city, take a couple of hours to find that bluff where the Mountain House once stood. Ask any ranger for directions to the look-out as you drive through Catskill. It may no longer be the most famous view in America but it is surely still one of the finest.

The one-way fare on an Amtrak train from New York City to Hudson is $40 (£23). Enterprise car rental has an office in Hudson and will deliver a car to the station. The Inn at Hudson, Country Squire Inn and Union Street Guest House are recommended

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Life and Style
tech
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week